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Trust me. Flossing is Awesome.

June 18, 2010 | Alicia Ostarello
It's not torture – it's just floss!

It's not torture – it's just floss!

Twice a year, we all end up in that strangely shaped chair, a masked and armed assistant poised over us and a spit-sucker draped precariously over our lower lip…Yes, twice a year, even college students go to the dentist for what feels like a final exam of our oral health abilities. Pertinent periodontal questions will be answered: Is my brushing technique up to par? Do I swish mouthwash with enough vigor? Will I be told I’m drinking too much coffee (the horror!)? And without fail, before we leave this jaw-dropping exam, we are reminded to floss.

Flossing is really tripping me up these days. I have always been told that easing a waxy strip of glorified thread between my molars, incisors, and everything tooth in-between, is essential to having amazing dental hygiene. And dentists throw out powerful messages such as “you only floss the teeth you want to keep” as they prowl through your mouth. But why is there such a lack of emphasis on reasons to floss in the real world?

A simple search on Google proves I’m not making chewing gum out of toothpaste here. Finding well researched articles about the benefits of flossing is actually difficult. And finding articles that throw down the flossing facts in a way that someone outside the American Dental Association would understand is darn near impossible. After sifting through articles that all seemed to have been written by the same person whose job it is to slightly revise the same information for a variety of sources, here’s what I have boiled down as to why you, the college student, should keep your toothbrush close, and your dental floss closer:

1. Halitosis is the Grossest
The point of flossing is to clean where no toothbrush has gone before – between your teeth. And what is between your teeth? Tiny bits of old food and plaque that build up and will emit a peculiar odor when you open your mouth to talk, smile, breathe, and yes, kiss that girl you’ve had your eye on in class. Bad breath is a killjoy for any conversation, and leads to certain doom when leaning in close for a canoodle.

2. Smile Security
If you don’t floss, there is more chance of your smile resembling those incredibly terrifying pictures your dentist has up on their wall next to their diplomas. Scraggly gums, giant gaps, and worst of all – removed teeth.

3. Saving Teeth is Good for Your Life
Your mouth is a warm, spongy gateway to the rest of your body. Good germs, gnarly germs, and bacteria of all shapes and sizes, can and do enter you physical being through your mouth. By cleaning out all the little crevices between your teeth, you are not only increasing the life-span of your chompers, but you are taking more steps towards overall well being.

4. No Pain is a Mouthful of Gain
Um, have you had dental work done ever? Flossing decreases your chances of needing to spend extra time in the dental chair. So unless your dentist is incredibly witty and interesting, a daily floss can get you back on campus and in the classroom–a much preferable place to be.

Flossing does not have to suck the life out of you. At least group on the internet is at least attempting to make flossing appear to suck less than we’re prone to believe it does – The National Flossing Council. You can find flossing haiku, flossing videos, and information about the annual Flossing Day holiday. But for the most part, you’re going to have be your own cheerleader when it comes to fetching the floss. My suggestion? Do it with a friend. If misery loves company, then flossing loves a party.

9 Responses to “Trust me. Flossing is Awesome.”

  1. Sus says:

    Ok, I heard that flossing increases the life span by like 9 years because the plaque between your teeth also leads to heart attacks…or something crazy like that. That one really got to me!

  2. alicia says:

    I couldn’t find any hard evidence specific to flossing that proved the increased life-span claim, though I have heard that too. However, the state of your mouth is a really good indication of the state of your overall health. So if you have inflamed gums, that is a sign that your body is fighting off an infection.

    I swear, health is all about looking at the long term plan. As students it’s darn near impossible to think about how your actions towards yourself now will impact you later, but seriously, I have a theory about how taking care of yourself now is being kind to future you.

    After researching this piece though, I’ve been a dedicated flosser. My boyfriend and I do it together!

  3. Whitney Moon says:

    Nick constatnly tells me to floss. In the nursing field they try to teach kids preventative measures about good health. Rather than parents telling their children “You need to floss or else your teeth will fall out,” parents should say “You should floss becaue it will make you feel better. It will help you be happy and healthy.” perhaps if more parents started this at a young age, us college students wouldn’t be horrible flossers. but those all nighters make it hard to remember.

  4. Angie S says:

    Oh, I’ve started to use a flossing wand-type thing – it’s got a handle like a toothbrush but instead of a brush at the end it’s just got a little U shaped piece of plastic with a tiny string of floss stretched between it, have you seen one? It means I get to floss but don’t have to stick my own fingers in my mouth, which always grosses me out. All the gain, far less pain! I recommend it!

  5. alicia says:

    Whitney: Nick is a nurse, so I’m a huge fan of anything he suggests. :-)

    And I like the preventative measures approach, but I always admire sound reasoning, too. I like your “it will help you be happy and healthy” suggestion – very positive, and impossible to argue with. Who doesn’t want to be happy and healthy?

  6. alicia says:

    Angie, the flossing wand scares me. I had one when I was a kid, for some reason it made the whole thing even more traumatic. But I know it works for lots of folks, and more power to you. I’m not picky about how you floss, I just want you to do it. :-)

    You bring up the good reminder that flossing is tricky (hence why I used to have the wand). Getting the coordination of wrapping the floss around your fingers and wedging it through your teeth is a bit of an acquired skill.

  7. Collin says:

    The flossing wand helps those males out there (toward whom this blog seems subtly directed toward) with large fingers get floss between our molars and wisdom teeth, if still in posession of them.

  8. Dr Grisham says:

    I had faecal breath odour for YEARS. Talked to many doctors who took my money then show me the door….I finally had a friend who suffers too, send me a eBook he bought 5 or 6 months ago he ask me how his breath smelt and didn’t smell a thing. He said the eBook amongst much else had him stop eating dairy food/ soft drinks and coffee/tea. So I’m like reading it and doing all the stuff it says to do. Thinking this has to be bull. But after a few days my tongue started turning red and felt nice. I worked up the courage to ask a friend how my breath smelt and he’s like I don’t smell anything. Now I’m thinking all those years of humiliation and I could have solved it ffs! There’s a site about it called OralTech Labs. When I read the site I felt sorry for the guy as he clearly had a real tough time with his bad breath, which pretty much ruined his school years. At lest he found a way to beat his bad breath and is letting others know how. Post this everywhere you can to help people!! Thanks R.J

  9. Armand says:

    Hi Alicia,
    I’m happy you enjoy the approach used by the NFC! Thanks for mentioning it in your excellent discussion of flossing! I’ll be adding it to soon.
    Best wishes,

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